Passages like the one we just read, which record Jesus interacting with children, always give us reason to lift up children and encourage them as full-fledged members of the kingdom of God.
Any parent who has seen the mind and heart of a young one at work is thrilled to see Jesus lift them up as models for Christian discipleship because there are so many admirable traits that they remind us of.
Certainly, there are many aspects of being a follower of Jesus that we could learn from our kids.
Now obviously, there are certain child-like traits that Jesus is NOT lifting up: immaturity, misbehavior, rebelliousness, lack of discernment, naivete, etc.
As interpreters of the whole of Scripture and not just its parts, we have enough evidence to convince us that these attributes should NOT be emulated, even though they do show up disproportionately in children.
So what child-like attributes IS Jesus lifting up?
Well, I always thought Jesus told us that the kingdom of God belongs to children because children had unquestioning absolute faith in their parents, or because they had pure hearts, or maybe it was their single-mindedness, their uncomplicated motives, or just their innocent love.
But guess what? None of these are actually on display in this passage. There is no evidence to suggest that Jesus is pointing to any of these.
Jesus isn’t even calling these traits forth from the kids!
In fact, if we look at all the characters in the story – Jesus, the parents of these kids, the disciples, and the children themselves – there’s only one character attribute that sets the children apart from all three other characters.
Anybody want to take a guess: what behavior sets the children apart from everyone else in this story?
Unlike the parents, the disciples, and Jesus, the children do . . . absolutely NOTHING.
The parents push the children forward to be touched.
The disciples push the children back.
Jesus reaches through the disciples’ firewall and pulls them up to himself after all.
What are the children doing during this whole charade? Look at the passage. Absolutely nothing!
I’ll take it back: they are doing one thing.
They’re following directions.
They’re accepting the instructions of presumably wiser minds (we hope!).
Apparently, they have no objection to Jesus doing to them what they don’t do for themselves, in this case, take up into his arms, lay hands on them, bless them.
Does anyone remember a simple three-phrase set of commands that we talked about recently that relates to discipleship?
Yes, that’s right: deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me. With not too much difficulty in translation, we can see these children denying themselves, taking up their cross, and following Jesus, right into his arms.
Ex. Mr. Baseball
You know, we could have had alternative endings to this story.
Read vss. 14 – 15, then . . .
“And he invited them up into his arms, but they would not go; instead, they stayed by their parent’s side.”
But that’s not the ending. According to Scripture, they followed the cues of their superiors and did what they were told.
I believe the character trait Jesus is lifting up as a model is nothing less than submission.
The children are NOT in control. They have no say. Others are calling the shots. They are NOT standing up for their beliefs. They’re simply accepting Jesus – nothing more, nothing less.
A picture of perfect submission. They are up there with the greats:
Isaiah: “Here am I, Lord. Send me.
Mary: “Let it be with me according to your word.”
Jesus: “Not my will, Lord, but thine be done.”
Maybe they weren’t the first disciples, or the most heroic, or the longest-lasting – who knows?
But at this point in time and space, they are the PERFECT disciples.
And Jesus WILL NOT have them pushed aside like some sort of 2nd string wanna-bes.
No, they are the real deal.
In the next story recorded in the gospel of Mark, a rich man asks how to enter the kingdom of God, or, as he says, inherit eternal life.
He’s very eager and seems very intent on getting what he wants. By all accounts, he wants to ‘own’ the kingdom of God.
But Jesus won’t let him. No, as per Jesus’ instructions, he must do like children and simply RECEIVE it, an action this rich man is not used to and in the end is incapable of. He knows how to take, but he doesn’t know how to receive.
Ex. First six months of FMER.
Why is the Lord so jealous for complete control over our lives?
Is God a power-mongerer?
No, there’s only one reason he wants complete control over our lives:
Because He knows what we’re capable of.
He knows our true destiny.
He knows who we were created to be.
He knows the character we were created to exhibit.
And he knows we can’t get their on our own.
I’ve already given to the Lord 98% of my life, I hear you say. Can’t I keep that last little 2% for myself?
Ah, but that’s the very 2% our Lord is most jealous for. Because God knows if we give him that, he can make us completely new people, Christ-like like we never imagined.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
And the reward? Well, what does this passage tell us?
The disciples were most anxious to take matters into their own hands. What did they get? A lesson in humility.
The parents were a little less controlling and their reward was to get their way.
And the kids? They had zero control over the situation, they were simply pawns in Jesus’ hands. What did they get
Like Moses before them, they got to sit on Jesus’ lap, look up inches away, and stare right into the face of God . . . and live. What greater reward is there than that?